CHICAGO -- There are many excellent reasons to agree that President Obama's proposal to allow employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave a year is a good idea.
And a majority of the American public agrees with the president that paid sick time -- which most white-collar workers already enjoy -- should be available to all workers.
For years, polls have shown that people overwhelmingly favor family-friendly policies, including paid sick time. The most recent was released last week by Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm engaged by the Make It Work campaign, an advocacy effort pushing for economic security for working families.
The poll asked a cross section of likely 2016 voters about a variety of family-friendly policies, and 88 percent of those identifying as Democrats, independents or Republicans said they favor workplace policies to "ensure all workers earn paid sick days to care for themselves or family members."
Probably most of the respondents are nice people who can imagine needing the time to care for a close family member.
To make another overly broad supposition, I'd say that most of the people who are opposed to such policies recoil at the idea of government mandates and likely already enjoy white-collar job stability in which benefits like paid sick time are a given.
They are also probably the sort of people who enjoy paid sick time and yet rarely take it. Working while sick even when you can have the time off is a thing. Many workers take great pride in coming to work ill, and there are a fair number of their colleagues who wish they'd stop.
In The New York Times, Daniel Engber writes about the pros and cons of "presenteeism." He notes that while these "team players" who come to the office sick, sneezing and dripping all over the place (making grossed-out co-workers lunge for the hand sanitizer), may not actually put workers at higher risk for contracting a nasty virus, they still have a negative effect.
"Since we're all in competition -- if I slow down, you get ahead -- no one has an incentive to untie the knot," said Engber. "When we see a colleague with a runny nose, it only makes that conflict more explicit. We act as if we're worried for his health, or troubled that his work-life balance might be out of whack, but in truth we're just as driven by the mania for overwork. We'd prefer for him to take his sick days now only so that we won't have to, down the line."
How lofty, to be in a position to prove one's mettle by outperforming your office mates, ick-factor be damned.
But this white-collar selflessness aside, do you really want your restaurant's dishwashers, preppers, line cooks or waitresses sneezing all over the kitchen where your food is prepared? Or pouring and serving your drinks with snotty hands?
As my husband, who worked in food service management for many years, says: "The reason every restaurant bathroom has a sign demanding that employees wash their hands before returning to work is because the health department knows workers often fail to actually do it."
Food service aside, there are any number of jobs -- most of them low-wage, part-time service jobs -- where you don't want the worker to be miserably sick or mentally checked out, worried about their sick loved one, because they can't afford to call off work and lose the pay or possibly the job.
Those of us who have the choice or flexibility to take an available sick day must speak up for those who are penalized for life's inevitable speed bumps. It's ultimately in our own best interest.
Self-interest is, in fact, the primary reason why many conservatives are wrong to oppose paid sick time. They howl about a wage cut for workers that would result from such a mandate because, the thinking goes, when the government requires businesses to offer a benefit, they must finance it by taking the cost out of workers' pay.
But for those at the very bottom of the economic ladder who live day-to-day, the estimated 34 cents an hour per worker that the Labor Department says paid sick time might cost them in lost wages is more affordable than worrying they can't address an illness or emergency without losing their livelihood.